Travis Ishikawa is in the First Base Platoon…For Now

Today the Pittsburgh Pirates made a big wave of cuts, including optioning first baseman Andrew Lambo to Triple-A. That leaves Travis Ishikawa as the only first baseman on the active roster for the other half of the platoon with Gaby Sanchez. However, Pirates’ General Manager Neal Huntington didn’t exactly say that Ishikawa has the job when asked about the platoon today.

“As we sit here today, yes, that would be the indication,” Huntington said on Ishikawa. “But we’ve got until Monday before we need to finalize anything.”

Ishikawa is getting notice for his good Spring Training. However, that’s only 24 at-bats, and his career numbers against right-handed pitching aren’t much better than what Garrett Jones did last year. Throughout his career, Ishikawa has basically been the 2013 version of Jones, with better defense. That’s not a bad option for a depth player, but it’s not who you want to go with on Opening Day.

“Travis had a nice Spring,” Huntington said. “He gives you good quality, professional at-bats, handles himself around the base, and if that’s where we end up, then we’ll be comfortable with that.”

Neither quote from Huntington was a huge endorsement for Ishikawa. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pirates end up making a trade before they finalize the rosters on Monday.

As for Lambo, he will go to Triple-A and play first base. Huntington said that the decision to option him was more about the offensive struggles than his work at first base.

“Andrew exceeded expectations defensively, and showed up very well there,” Huntington said. “Offensively, the results obviously weren’t there. He faced a lot of fastball count off-speed pitches, and in our minds, the right thing to do to get him back on track was to have him start the season in Indianapolis.”

The problem with sending Lambo to Indianapolis is that he’s already had success at the level. If he goes to Triple-A and starts hitting again, then the Pirates haven’t really learned anything, except that he can hit Triple-A pitching. Eventually they’re going to have to give him a shot in the majors to see how he does against Major League pitching. For now, Huntington said that the move to Triple-A will allow Lambo to “take a deep breath.”

“Get back to being the guy that we believe he’s going to be,” Huntington said on Lambo. “Hit fastballs to all parts of the field. Stay through off-speed pitches. And get back to the confident hitter that does damage in the box. Sometimes guys try to do too much. It seems like that certainly was the case with Andrew this Spring. We still believe in him. But to believe as of March 31st the switch is going to flip, and guys can all of a sudden change some things on day one, we felt the best way to get Andrew back on track was to go ahead and send him out.”

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • marty34156

    Huntington’s comments scream trade. Hope one happens. Ishikawa is not very good, Lambo is even worse. They need to address 1B.

  • blackmax

    Lambo has only 62 games at AAA. It will be revealing to find out if he can repeat his good numbers there, since some still wonder if last year was his career year.

  • wkkortas

    Oh. My. God.

  • Ron Loreski

    Kingham, Lambo, and Josh Bell to the Cubs for Anthony Rizzo.

    • lonleylibertarian

      Aw c’mon – throw in Polanco too…

      • Ron Loreski

        Only if we can get J-Mac back.

    • Jake L

      I like the idea but it won’t ever happen. Rizzo just signed an extension.

      • Y2JGQ2

        It was a joke anyways Jake

        • Ron Loreski

          Nah, I’m kinda serious. I’d like to see the Pirates get a better player than Davis, Smoak, Moreland etc.. But in order to do that, you have to give up better players.

          • smurph

            Yeah because Rizzo’s .233 avg. .736 OPS is so superior to Jones .233/.708 OPS (career .740 OPS)

            • Ron Loreski

              Yeah because the fact that Rizzo is 24 and Jones is 32 means nothing right?

  • RobForsyth

    Is it at all possible that Lambo was so concentrating on making the transition to 1st base that the hitting suffered as a result?

    • emjayinTN

      RF: I think that was a given, and much of it had to do with the enormity of it all – It’s the SHOW, and here he was a kid who hit more HR’s in one year than he had in the previous 4 years combined. It is scary to think about being almost there and then getting snakebit with line drives that are not dropping. Better he fails in front of 8,000 fans in Florida rather than 30,000 fans in Pittsburgh. He will get another shot, if his performance merits that opportunity.

  • Ron Loreski

    Neil Walker to the Blue Jays for Adam Lind. Pirates sign Stephen Drew.

    • lonleylibertarian

      Must be really good ganja you are smoking…

      • Ron Loreski

        It is, got it from Lambo actually.

        • John

          Now is a good time to get traded to Colorado where it’s legal, lol!

        • jaygray007

          low blow, but lol

    • Y2JGQ2

      wow what an awful trade, Have you been talking to Cam Bonifay by chance? or David Littlefield?

  • leadoff

    With an abundance of bullpen pitching, extra outfielders and possibly a little cash left in the coffers, one would have to believe the Pirates will make some type of deal within a week. IMO, Lambo just needs to go somewhere and hit without pressing to get his confidence back. Ishikawa will be okay until they get a permanent solution. I don’t believe 1st base or right field will keep the Pirates from winning a pennant, other factors might. Every team in baseball has a core of above average players and and the good teams follow that up with a few average players, I would say that is the case with the Pirates.

  • John

    Hurdle loves veterans even if they stink, case in point John McDonald. But to be honest Lambo did nothing to help his cause. So he needs to do a little soul searching in Indy.

    • stickyweb

      I love using MacDonald as proof that Hurdle loves veterans, even if they stink. What does that say about the other 3 MLB teams that rostered him after he left the Bucs, including the World Series Champion BoSox, who actually traded a player for him?!?
      Veteran utility guys will always have role on teams, and it’s pretty clear he’s the reason the Sox won it all. Too bad the Bucs didn’t keep him :-)

    • Y2JGQ2

      Agreed John

  • jaygray007

    it’s all about dat Grady Sizemore and Mike Carp situation.

  • impliedi

    Any word on how David Cooper has looked?? I know that he had that crazy back surgery, but he’s been pushed back to AAA with the Indians when they got Sellers, and I know that the guy can get on base and hit. If he’s healthy and can be had for little, I certainly would be more comfortable with him over at 1B with Gaby, than Ishikawa. (Though he was DFA’d earlier this month and the Pirates didn’t put a claim on him then, so maybe he’s not fully recovered.)

  • Honusty

    What would the return for Gaby Sanchez be? Sure he crushes lefties, but he only had 126 plate appearances again LHPs last year. Couldn’t he be part of a package that lands a more everyday first basemen? Mariners are looking for a right handed bat. Why not Gaby and change for Smoak and change? Matt Hague, Tony Sanchez, R Martin could all play 1B against lefties. Also Steve Pearce is out of options and could play a similar role. I am sure there is another dozen or so such players out there.

    • Y2JGQ2

      For Gaby Sanchez? ….A cd collection of “ugly kid Joe” and “The Brian Cestra Orchestra” along with “building bridges for dummies” and a 23′ magnavox TV.

      • Honusty

        Can ugly kid joe hit righties? Sort of a coincidence – I heard cat steven’s “cats in the cradle” on the radio during my morning commute

        • clementeninjamonk

          Harry Chapin wrote “Cat’s in the Cradle.” Cat Stevens authored many a fine song (“Moonshadow,” “Wild World,” “If I Laugh,” etc) but that’s not one of them.

  • japple2298

    Its a long season and many players that are with the team now, will be gone by the first of July. The Pirates will be alright !!

  • dcproject

    what about a trade with the padres for yonder alonso? they have tommy medica waiting in the wings.

    • bmcferren

      they also have Dickerson in the wings :)

      I like the Alonso idea

      • dcproject

        true. almost forgot about alex. i wonder what the friars would want for yonder.

  • Ron Loreski

    Jason Grilli, Andrew Lambo, and Allen Hanson to SF for Brandon Belt.

  • http://@gwbicster gwbicster

    To me, reading between the lines, they plan on Gaby full-time at 1B. And this is not good. Not good at all.